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Poem At The Centennial Anniversary Dinner
by [?]


At The Centennial Anniversary Dinner Of The
Massachusetts Medical Society, June 8, 1881

THREE paths there be where Learning’s favored sons,
Trained in the schools which hold her favored ones,
Follow their several stars with separate aim;
Each has its honors, each its special claim.
Bred in the fruitful cradle of the East,
First, as of oldest lineage, comes the Priest;
The Lawyer next, in wordy conflict strong,
Full armed to battle for the right,–or wrong;
Last, he whose calling finds its voice in deeds,
Frail Nature’s helper in her sharpest needs.

Each has his gifts, his losses and his gains,
Each his own share of pleasures and of pains;
No life-long aim with steadfast eye pursued
Finds a smooth pathway all with roses strewed;
Trouble belongs to man of woman born,–
Tread where he may, his foot will find its thorn.

Of all the guests at life’s perennial feast,
Who of her children sits above the Priest?
For him the broidered robe, the carven seat,
Pride at his beck, and beauty at his feet,
For him the incense fumes, the wine is poured,
Himself a God, adoring and adored!
His the first welcome when our hearts rejoice,
His in our dying ear the latest voice,
Font, altar, grave, his steps on all attend,
Our staff, our stay, our all but heavenly friend!

Where is the meddling hand that dares to probe
The secret grief beneath his sable robe?
How grave his port! how every gesture tells
Here truth abides, here peace forever dwells;
Vex not his lofty soul with comments vain;
Faith asks no questions; silence, ye profane!

Alas! too oft while all is calm without
The stormy spirit wars with endless doubt;
This is the mocking spectre, scarce concealed
Behind tradition’s bruised and battered shield.
He sees the sleepless critic, age by age,
Scrawl his new readings on the hallowed page,
The wondrous deeds that priests and prophets saw
Dissolved in legend, crystallized in law,
And on the soil where saints and martyrs trod
Altars new builded to the Unknown God;
His shrines imperilled, his evangels torn,–
He dares not limp, but ah! how sharp his thorn!

Yet while God’s herald questions as he reads
The outworn dogmas of his ancient creeds,
Drops from his ritual the exploded verse,
Blots from its page the Athanasian curse,
Though by the critic’s dangerous art perplexed,
His holy life is Heaven’s unquestioned text;
That shining guidance doubt can never mar,–
The pillar’s flame, the light of Bethlehem’s star!

Strong is the moral blister that will draw
Laid on the conscience of the Man of Law
Whom blindfold Justice lends her eyes to see
Truth in the scale that holds his promised fee.
What! Has not every lie its truthful side,
Its honest fraction, not to be denied?
Per contra,–ask the moralist,–in sooth
Has not a lie its share in every truth?
Then what forbids an honest man to try
To find the truth that lurks in every lie,
And just as fairly call on truth to yield
The lying fraction in its breast concealed?
So the worst rogue shall claim a ready friend
His modest virtues boldly to defend,
And he who shows the record of a saint
See himself blacker than the devil could paint.

What struggles to his captive soul belong
Who loves the right, yet combats for the wrong,
Who fights the battle he would fain refuse,
And wins, well knowing that he ought to lose,
Who speaks with glowing lips and look sincere
In spangled words that make the worse appear
The better reason; who, behind his mask,
Hides his true self and blushes at his task,–
What quips, what quillets cheat the inward scorn
That mocks such triumph? Has he not his thorn?